Historical Timeline

Time Table for the Motor Mill Site­

1833- First actual European-American settlement in Clayton County near Millville

1838- First European-American settler in present day Read Township

1847- May 19- John Thompson purchased Section 27 and 34 of Read Township from Jacob Howard.

1854- July 10- Charles Sawyer and John Downie were granted by the U.S. Government Section 5, Township 92,

          Range 4, which was ½ mile downstream from future Motor Mill site.

1854-60- There was a sawmill called “Hastings Bottom” and/or “Downie’s Mill” located ½ mile downstream from the Motor Mill. A 10-foot high dam was built to power the sawmill.

1854- The Keen brothers hire a man to cut out part of the Downie Mill Dam in order to pass their steamboat, the Kate Keen, through the dam in order to sail it to the Mississippi River from Elkader.

1856- Statistics taken by James Crosby show 14,862 acres of wheat & 12,112 acres of corn in Clayton County.

1857- May 18- Charles Sawyer sells his half of the sawmill to Elisha Downie.

1857-66- Clayton County maps show a sawmill as the only structure at this site, no mill or bridge.

1863- Jan. 5- Elisha and John Downie sell their shares to Priscilla Crosby (No relation to James Crosby).

April- Priscilla quickly sold her shares to Florian Slick.

1866- Clayton County maps show a sawmill at this site but no other buildings or bridge.

June 9- Florian Slick sold his land to Fred Diers.

March 14- News article describes a sawmill in the area of Motor “once, but the dam was washed away a number of years ago, and there has nothing been done since to rebuilt it; hence no mill is in operation”.

1867- Chinch bug invasion.

Summer & Fall- Crosby getting water rights for site, surveying, leveling begun on Motor’s flour mill. Construction of cable car railway began.

Oct. 1- Thompson, Crosby & Dickinson officially enter a co-partnership with name of John Thompson & Co.

1868- Construction for high-sided bridge crossing the Turkey River began. Surveying taking place at Motor as a prospect for a new railroad.

Jan. 9- Supervisors vote to approve construction for the high-sided wood bridge at Motor.

March 16- Crosby went to Elkport to meet with School Board.  Got appropriation for school at Motor.

April 28- First load of rock was hauled down the railway from hilltop quarry. 7 or 8 loads the next day.

May 13- Crosby was turned down in his application for a post office at Motor, Iowa

June 14- Motor Sabbath School was organized electing J. Worley Supt. and J.P. Dickinson Sec/Tr.

1869- May 30- Letter from Thompson to Crosby to begin laying up the stone wall for the Cooper Shop.

Aug. 3- Crosby & Thompson tried to promote a woollen mill at Motor. Crosby traveled the country promoting it.

Oct. 23- Crosby cut brush & located a road to Communia. Crosby established road from Communia to Motor.

Nov. 20-  Crosby left Motor with 138 lb flour, 32.5 lb middlings, 75 lbs bran and 34 lbs screenings.

Dec. 19- The mill is completed with the finishing of the roof.

1870- Jan. 1- Legal statute of limitation for Motor Mill began. This is the legal beginning of Motor Mill.

June- U.S. Census list Mary J. Davis (schoolteacher), A. Falconer (hotel keeper), John Thompson (flour miller), and Louis Schroeder (store keeper) at Motor.

1871- Chinch bug invasion. A schoolhouse was built on south side of the river between Motor and Communia.

1874- September 21- A suit against the Iowa Eastern Railroad Co. is made by Thompson, Crosby, and Dickinson claiming $12,764.50 for ties furnished and labor and services rendered. It is also noted that there were two attempts to get a railroad to Motor Mill (Gem of the Prairie).

1875- Aug. 27- James O. Crosby filed plat map for the Motor town site.

1876- The Iowa Eastern Railway, in about a three-month period, transported some 720 barrels of flour.

1878- Feb. 12- Dickinson sold his ¼ interest to Thompson and retired from the firm. Thompson then hired Dickinson to work at the Mill at $600 per year. “Some trouble has occurred here.” In a huff, Dickinson & family left that night to return to Clermont.

1879- Motor Mill was rented out. Thompson left Motor.

Sept.- Thomson’s nephew, Gilbert, and Theodore Ponsar begin operating Motor Mill. They consistently ran advertisements in the newspaper offering custom milling.

1880- Thompson and Ponsar report production rates of 30 barrels per day at Motor Mill.

1883- July- A major flood damages the dam, flume, and bridge making the dam unusable by creating a hole in the middle about 8’x3’ and on right bank a strip 5’ wide, 10’ to 12’ long. The end of milling at Motor.

1885- Newspaper article reports the state of Motor to be neglected and abandoned.

1887- Chinch bug invasion.

1889- John Thompson petitioned that the partnership be dissolved and the property sold.

July 5- From Equity Suit “John Thompson VS James O. Crosby”- Paragraph 15- The dam across Turkey River which furnished the power for flour mill was washed out & damaged by high water, so that ever since said Co. has been unable to repair dam & operate or rent same for any purpose. Sawmill carried off by flood.

1890- June 10- Lawsuit between Crosby & Thompson settled against Thompson. Motor ceased to function as a viable town.

1898-99- Nov.-April- Iron bridge built by A.C. Boyle of McGregor. Boyle issued total warrant of $3,025 for bridge.

1903- Purchased by Louis & Elizabeth (Wistrick) Klink from Thompson’s daughter, Annetta Clift, as a farm.

Sept. 30- Max Aron, a junk dealer, bought scrap out of Motor Mill and hauled it to Dubuque.

1903-1983- Klink family owned Motor, structures used as farm buildings.

1977- Motor Mill is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

1983- 100 acres at Motor Mill purchased by the Clayton County Conservation Board (CCCB) with assistance of the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation (INHF) from the Klink family.

1991- Flood washed out the south span of the iron bridge.

1992- 55 acres purchased from Mildred Beck Kennedy expanded Motor Mill Park on the North side of river.

2002- The Clayton County Conservation Board established the Motor Mill Advisory Committee (MMAC).

2004- Sept. 2- Motor Mill Foundation (MMF) formed. Clayton County Conservation Board dissolved the MMAC.

2005-Present- Motor open for tours two weekends a month May-September. Over 1,100 people visited the mill. Robert Grau family established the Robert Grau Memorial Savanna on top of hill north of the mill.

2007- MMF develops Long Range Plan for Motor Mill. Members of MMF replace floor joists & flooring in mill.

2008- June 8- Flood washed out the remaining north span of the iron bridge.

2009-Present- MMF continues restoration of mill. Completed projects are roof of mill & inn, flooring & joists on 6 floors, mill & cooperage windows, millstone floor & support timbers, & more. Roofs replaced on mill & inn.

2010- The windows are replaced in the mill.

2011- The mill stone floor superstructure is replaced in the mill

2012- Oct. 11- Construction on the bridge began

Dec. 6- Replica completed of original pin-and-truss iron bridge designed by VJ Engineering of Coralville, IA & constructed by Minnowa Const., Harmony, MN. Officially open December 8, 2012.

2013- Cooperage windows are replaced.

2014- Stair rails are created and installed in the mill.

June 6- Motor Mill Historic District - Entire town site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

2020- Silt removed from basement, 4 wood turbines discovered- sent 2 to Maryland for preservation work 2021-22.

2021-Present - Restoration projects nearly complete of the Stable (2021) and the Inn (2023).

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